£78 B- POLEVOI
made to measure, were exposed to view. On the artificial
limbs were a pair of new, brown army boots; and they
fitted the limbs so well that one might have thought that
they were living, booted feet.
"All you want is a pair of overshoes, and they'd be
nice enough to go to your wedding in," said the crafts-
man, gazing admiringly at his handiwork over his specta-
cles. "Vasily Vasilyevich himself ordered them. 'Zuyev,'
he said, 'make a pair of feet that will be better than real
ones.' Well, here they are! Zuyev has made them. Fit for
Meresyev's heart shrank at the sight of the artificial
feet; it shrank, froze, but that feeling was soon van-
quished by his eagerness to try them on, to walk, to walk
unaided. He thrust out the stumps of his legs from under
the blanket and hurriedly urged the craftsman to put
them on him. But the old man, who claimed that long
ago, before the Revolution, he had made an artificial
limb for a "big duke" who had broken his leg at the
races, did not like to be hurried. He was very proud of
his work and wanted to prolong the pleasure of deliver-
ing the order to his customer.
He wiped the limbs with his sleeve, scraped a small
stain from one of them with his finger-nail, breathed on
the spot and polished it on his snow-white smock, then
stood the limbs on the floor, slowly folded the wrapper
and put it into his pocket.
"Come on, Grandpa, let's try them!" said Meresyev
impatiently, sitting on the edge of his bed.
He now looked at the bare stumps of his legs with the
eyes of a stranger and felt pleased with them. They
looked strong and sinewy, and it was not fat that usually
accumulates with enforced immobility, but firm muscles
that rippled under the dark skin, as if they were the
muscles not of stumps, but of the sound limbs of a man
who did a lot of fast walking.
"What do you mean 'come on, come on'? Sooner said
than done!" grumbled the old man. "Vasily Vasilyevich
said to me, 'Zuyev,' he says, 'make the best pair you've
ever made in your life. This lieutenant,' he says, 'intends
to fly without feet.' Well, I've made 'em! Here they are!
With feet like that you'll not only be able to walk, but